The Best Beers Brewed in London: Top 5

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It has been an exciting development in London over the last ten years (or so) to see a staggering amount of new breweries open. There is simply an abundance of exciting, unusual and occasionally very good beers now being produced here. Call me a sucker for marketing spiel but I just love the idea of a group of friends making some beer in their garden shed and then finding out it’s so unbelievably good that they have to bloody well go start a business. I also like the fact that this trendy development in the city has yet to spark any cultural back lash from critics with a pencil to grind. After all pretty much everyone likes a good beer. Having had nothing exciting happen this week I thought I’d spend the weekend sampling many different London beers with friends and compiling a top five. In no particular order these are the results.

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Gamma Ray

The Gamma Ray is hard to miss on the shelf. The can looks like Tim Burton’s ‘Mars Attacks’ with 1950’s flying saucers looking hip and simultaneously reducing humanity to dust! Sadly, I have a confession to make here, the moment I caught sight of a can of this stuff I thought it was the craziest looking beer I’d ever seen. I then promptly concluded that it was trying too hard and that the contents couldn’t possibly live up to the design. How wrong I was. It took a great deal of time for me to try this fine beverage but a friend one fine evening brought me a glass of it without the can in sight. It had a fantastic refreshing zingy grapefruit taste that instantly made me take things easy and enjoy the day. ‘What is this fine brew?’, I asked, at which point my folly was made apparent. This is my Homer Simpson beer it’s ideal for lazing about and watching telly with. The Gamma Ray for me is also an important lesson in giving things a go in life. Readers will be pleased to hear that since this incident I’ve given up judging books by their covers and am now more of a size queen.

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Double Perle

Double Perle is a mighty brew, a richly flavoured coffee milk stout, at 8.6% abv it is definitely a sipping beer. A delicious smooth thick creamy texture is the way by which this beer makes its’ introduction. The taste begins rapidly with a pronounced chocolate and coffee taste coming right off the bat. Next a superb vanilla note emerges giving the sweet cappuccino taste already present an interesting dessert twist. Finally a bitter dark chocolate taste lingers unobtrusively at the end. This is a highly balanced beer, the coffee flavour is never overstated and while incredibly sweet it is never sickeningly so. An absolutely marvellous brew, it’s a precious drink to be savoured at the end of a fine day. A luscious velvet treat, that I’d better stop talking about, as I fear I’m beginning to sound like Nigella Lawson crossed with Gollum.

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Crate Sour

The Crate Sour can be summed up in one word “interesting”. Many of the beers on this list would be considered an acquired taste but this is the genuine article, a truly acquired taste. In the sense that you first take a few sips and quickly conclude that this is a god awful abomination. Next you take a few more sips and hey presto, as if by magic, you’ve suddenly acquired a taste for it. A sour is basically a beer that has gone off. In short it’s a bad idea that never should have caught on, like eating fugu or drinking cow’s milk. How humanity regularly concocts and promotes such bad ideas is a true mystery to me. Yet in this case the result is magnificent. The Crate Sour is truly splendiferous. It has a wonderful tropical fruit aroma. The taste is a sharp shocking sour sensation that is the equivalent of a bungee jump for the tongue. However, after the initial fright you begin to detect a light fruitiness and a mystifying hint of hibiscus. I’m not a huge fan of sours but this one’s insanely awesome.

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Kernel Table Beer

As the name would imply this is a no fuss everyday beer. Nevertheless this gentle refreshing brew with its’ wonderful hoppy citrus flavour is highly drinkable stuff. It might not be bombastically spectacular but it is rather special. Especially given that for a beer with an abv of only 3.3% it packs in an incredible amount of flavour. The fact you can have several bottles of the stuff without any fear of adverse effects is simply a bonus. Quite a few people do complain that this beer is a little watery, yet in my experience it’s not that watery. More to the point, I find this an odd criticism, given that the style of beer under examination is a table beer. It’s like someone saying that they thought Hamlet was a brilliant tragedy but that the sad ending felt unnecessary. Quite simply this is a fantastically crafted table beer that has a mellow nature which pairs perfectly with a glorious summer’s day. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Fuller’s London Porter

In life one should always save the best till last, and this is it. Fuller’s London Porter is as black as the devils heart and just as tasty. A rich malty brew, it has a chocolaty flavour with a light coffee note and just a hint of smokiness. It is a sophisticated beer that I could drink all day long. This is the granddaddy of London beers, the brew to which all others must be compared. The definitive classic! Fuller’s isn’t some upstart brewery that ironically informs clientele that it was founded in 2008, no it is the original London brewery founded in 1828. And its’ London Porter is the very best it has to offer. This is the Montecristo, the Rolls Royce, the friggin Big Ben of beers. If it was a piece of classical music it would have been composed by Bach, if it was a scientific formula it would make Steven Hawking cry tears of joy, and if it was a painting it would not be hanging in the Louvre cos some bastard would have nicked it. Its awe inspiringly beautiful, delightfully elegant and a good few bottles will get you drunk.

Just in case I’m being too subtle, allow me to summarise, if you love beer buy this!

So those are my Top 5 London Beers! Did I miss out anyone’s favourites? If so post them in the comment section below. Also what did people make of the doodle? I’m thinking of having more for future articles.

 

Hackney One Carnival: review

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Carnivals are bloody marvellous! There’s something so stupendous about a group of people getting together to simply have fun. In London the Notting Hill Carnival is easily the most famous, however there are some smaller but no less spectacular events which really need to be shouted about. Two weekends’ back I attended one of them, the Hackney One Carnival and had a truly most excellent time. Unfortunately my write up was delayed due to the sleep deprived state I found myself in at the end of the event which meant my subsequent write up of said event was pants. Here’s hoping that the second time’s the charm.

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On Sunday the 11th I found myself sipping rum from a coconut, on a glorious day, in a fantabulously warm and friendly atmosphere. In fact I dare say that there aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to do the setting justice*. Before the carnival began one was greeted by a mass of food stalls and flags all competing to out smoke the other. There were people hanging out of their bedroom windows in anticipation of the spectacle, some seriously chilled out dudes playing some drums, and some incredibly well prepared tourists with nifty deck chairs.   After a delayed start the procession of awesome sauce made its presence known when a truck laden with speakers laid down some fat beats and set off every car alarm within the vicinity. Thus begun a wondrous marching cacophony of culture!

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In the endless multi coloured blitz that followed there were many, amusing, amazing, and darn right odd sights to behold. Highlights included granny pirates, Japanese warlords, steam punk clockwork elephants, daemons, and of course the obligatory scantily clad maidens. My favourite dancing group were the gent’s from Bolivia, with groovy hats and ace jackets that were black with magenta dragoons at the front and had cool glittery blue at the back, these fellows stole the show. It’s a terrible way to describe it, but if you were there you’d agree, that their dance resembled a more jovial Maori war dance. A Maori ‘let’s be friends’ dance if you will. In this amassed hubbub of vibrant energy I found myself completely engrossed in the sights and sounds, completely in the moment. It struck me that everyone appeared to be having an insanely good time. It wasn’t to last. No sooner had I thought this, than a stroppy ten year old wearing the most brilliant spider costume ever, lethargically meandered past in a sulk. The sorrow in his eyes was similar to that of a deadly kitten forced to wear cute reindeer antlers. It’s probably a statement which doesn’t reflect kindly on me, but this made my day. However putting this brief giggling fit of schadenfreude to one side, I must admit that the event really brought out the gentle joyous best in me and everyone else to boot.  At the end of the procession I sat down drank a little more rum and floated off to dance the night away.

I’d highly recommend everyone who hasn’t been to check this event out next year if they can.

*Maybe I’m exaggerating a little.

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Nikka from the Barrel Review

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The Japanese make some of the best damn Whisky in the world. Unfortunately the price of drams such as Hibiki and Yamazaki have sky rocketed. At the time of writing this a bottle of Yamazaki 18 which once could be purchased for £65 is selling for £450. In such instances one finds that the connection between quality and price has been severed. Investors have elevated the whisky to the realm of status symbol.  As such it is decreed that it may only be quaffed by ego maniacs and the taste bud free dull witted victims of inbreeding. Of course I won’t be the one complaining if I wake up tomorrow to find that all the bottles of whisky I have are now worth a fortune. However until that day I hope the reader will forgive me if I quickly curse the law of supply and demand, and congratulate human stupidity for once again exceeding my expectations.

I do apologise I appear to be ranting, getting back to the topic of Japanese whisky allow me to present salvation! ‘Nikka from the Barrel’ is a most excellent Japanese dram that against all odds has remained thoroughly affordable. It is a truly superb blended whisky with all the elements involved combining seamlessly to make something rather spectacular. It costs around £35 and comes in a simple inconspicuous 50cl bottle that looks more like a bottle of aftershave than a whisky. In fact when I first received a bottle as a birthday present I was rather worried. It has a rather hefty 51.4% abv but you’d never guess that from its’ gentle understated taste. As such I find it an ideal whisky to enliven an evening and promote merry conversation about nonsense.  In my experience even those who profess to hating whisky love this stuff. The nose makes for a fantastic first introduction; it is citrusy with a delightful hint of Japanese oak. The taste has a zesty orange, a wonderful hint of vanilla and a spicy quality reminiscent of Christmas pudding.  I also detect a plum wine note which I think makes it rather special. Finally it has a short dry oak finish that will have you quickly raising your glass for a second sip. All in all I find Nikka from the Barrel a majestic gentle sipping whisky that pairs perfectly with talking bollocks.

Verdict: Get it while you can.

Score: 87/100

Beat Boredom Ride a Rollercoaster

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Last week I had a serious case of ennui. I was bored out of my brains and against all reason I couldn’t help but find every single thing in life, dull, dreary, and mind numbingly tedious. Given the truly wondrous nature of existence I find it absolutely extraordinary that humans can achieve this state of existence without the aid of dire circumstances. Nevertheless last week I was in relative luxury and experiencing it! To make matter’s worse I had a spell of unprovoked grumpiness; that horrible state where one feels one ought to be annoyed about something but can’t bloody well find anything to be annoyed about. Finally all of this was topped off by the fact that some git had lent me a ‘fantastic’ book on suicide. In short last week I was a Parisian on existential steroids, given another day of monotony, I swear I would have written an opus on the futility of existence. At times like this, one needs a cunning plan, a mad scheme that will inject a sense of whimsy into one’s life. Unfortunately the state of ennui is not conducive to finding solutions. So in the end I deferred to happenstance and asked a friend what I should do. She told me to get on a rollercoaster and scream my head off like a lunatic. So that’s exactly what I did.

I settled on Thorpe Park as my destination for the simple reason that it was the closest theme park to London I could find.  I arrived, spotted what looked like the biggest bad ass rollercoaster there (Stealth) and immediately joined a very long queue. Fifty minutes of uninterrupted grumbling later and I found myself nonchalantly getting on the rollercoaster. It was at this stage that my sense of ennui went AWOL. I was about to experience something incredibly real and in all that grumbling through the queue I had never once considered that I might not want to go on a rollercoaster. The caveman part of my brain had awoken to find itself in the perilous grasp of a mighty beast. A 21st century woolly mammoth with laser tusks no less. Thirty terrifying seconds later the caveman lived to tell the tale. I was suddenly filled with a sense of elation. The Parisian part of my brain tried to counter the mood by pointing out that life was still inherently futile. The caveman part of my brain retorted, by bonking him over the head with a club. I was having fun again!!!

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Over the course of the day, I discovered that there was so much to do and that everything brought an exhilarating rush. Given its relatively small size Thorpe Park packs in a lot of great rides.  All five rollercoasters are absolutely fantastic. I particularly enjoyed ‘Stealth’ which shoots you up and then down a hill at 80mph, and ‘Colossus’ which has an incredible ten inversions. The smaller rides were also great and I would seriously recommend ‘The Slammer’ and ‘Rush’.  The former spins you upside down while the latter swings you about like crazy. (Readers need not thank me for my detailed and accurate ride descriptions). The only ride I’d recommend avoiding is ‘The Detonator’, which is a lift drop thing. I was lulled into going on this ride by a deceptively short queue. Unfortunately the throughput on this ride turned out to be dreadfully slow and the tiny queue turned out to take forty plus minutes. Once on board, the ride proved insanely short and incredibly tame, put simply the cost to screams ratio here was economically unsound.

In conclusion, I had an absolute blast at Thorpe Park. I also learned that boredom is no match for a thoroughly horrific experience.

What do you do to counter the incessant meaninglessness of it all?